Hijab issue, drug controversies hit Asian Games
INCHEON - Qatar's women's basketball team stood defiant over a ban on their Muslim headscarves Thursday as a second doping case and match-fixing fears overshadowed the Asian Games.
The Qatari women forfeited a second game in Incheon because under International Basketball Federation (FIBA) rules, they are not allowed to play in hijabs or other headgear.
"We are not going to the stadium today and for the other matches, as we will not be allowed to play because of the international basketball federation," a Qatar Olympic Committee official told AFP.
Mounting controversies stole attention from world records in archery and shooting and an improved performance by South Korea's Park Tae-Hwan in the 100 metres freestyle heats.
Qatar's women were to play Nepal on Thursday, a day after they walked on court to face Mongolia but quickly departed when told they could not play.
FIBA's ban on headwear in international competition is motivated by safety but it has raised hackles at Asia's Olympics, which includes several Muslim nations.
"It's an insult to us, they don't respect religion," Qatari player Rafaa Morgan Mohammed told AFP.
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), which runs the quadrennial Asian Games, criticised FIBA. Other sports such as football allow religious headwear.
"Every athlete has the right to represent their country's flag without discrimination," OCA director general Husain Al-Musallam said late on Wednesday.
Cambodian soft tennis player Yi Sophany, 18, became the second athlete caught in the doping net when she tested positive for the banned stimulant sibutramine.
She follows 20-year-old Tajik footballer Khurshed Beknazarov, who was kicked out for doping on Tuesday and has been provisionally banned by Asian football authorities.
And authorities launched an investigation after betting analysis company Sportradar said it "strongly" suspects match-fixing in the men's football competition.
"We can say that we strongly believe there have been manipulated matches at the Asian Games," Andreas Krannich, managing director of strategy and integrity, told The New Paper in Singapore.
Krannich did not reveal the teams involved but said attention was focusing on at least one group game where late goals were scored.
"The odds movements and the deviations caused alerts, belying clear betting evidence that could never be justified in a regular contest," he said.
The OCA said it would work with the Asian Football Confederation and world body FIFA to investigate the claim.
"OCA takes this matter seriously and works with the Asian federation and international federation (FIFA) for a proper and full investigation," an official told AFP.
The men's football competition heads into the second round on Thursday with Palestine and China involved.
In swimming, China's women's 4x100m medley team were disqualified in the heats, giving a boost to Japan who are trailing their rivals 8-15 in gold medals in the pool.
"The girls allowed themselves a little pump of the fist," Japanese coach Yoshiaki Takemura told AFP following the decision to throw out the Chinese after lead-off swimmer Wang Xueer failed to surface before the 15-metre mark.
"We caught a break there. We've been getting whacked a bit over the last few days."
South Korea's former Olympic champion Park timed quickest in the 100m freestyle heats with 49.76 seconds as he bids for his first gold medal after demoralising defeats in the 200m and 400m.
"I'm just trying to stay calm," Park told reporters. "I'm trying not to think about the expectations."
South Korea celebrated their first world record of the Games when their women's compound archery team scored 238 points out of a possible 240 in the quarter-finals.
And China broke the world record to take gold in the men's 50m rifle prone team event. — Agence France-Presse
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